Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday said that the 2023 National Budget should provide a “lifeline” for Filipinos whose funds have run out during the pandemic.
“Wala pong natira sa alkansya ng mga Pinoy at pagkatapos nito, sunud-sunod naman ang pagtaas ng gastos sa pagkain, sa pamasahe at sa bayad sa kuryente. Gusto kong maunawaan kung nagiging salbabida ba para sa mga kababayan natin na nasaid ang mga naipon ang ipinagmamalaki nating mataas na gross domestic product growth rate?” Hontiveros asked.
During the budget intervention, Hontiveros cited the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ Financial Inclusion Survey which showed that Filipino adults with savings dropped from 53 percent to 37 percent between 2019 and 2021 — which could mean that 9.7 million Filipinos drew on their savings until nothing was left.
“Yung salbabida o buffer sana na magliligtas sa pamilyang Pilipino ay nasaid nitong panahon ng pandemya. Napakanipis ng depensa nila while waiting for the economic recovery, kaya gobyerno ang dapat magsalba sa kanila sa ganitong pagkalubog,” Hontiveros said.
While there are subsidy programs for gasoline, education, health, and local food production, according to Hontiveros, corresponding steps should be taken to neutralize the surge of transportation, food, power, and rental expenses. She finds the present reliance on the blunt monetary instruments of the Bangko Sentral too limiting and maybe even contrary to the objective of the moment, which is income and jobs recovery.
“When transport costs are rising, shouldn’t we be hearing our economic managers talk more about completing the PUV modernization, sustaining service contracting, and addressing congestion at the Port of Manila? When the price of fish is high, ironically sa isang archipelago, shouldn’t we be hearing more about finding a happy compromise between importing fish and protecting the incomes of our fisherfolk?” Hontiveros said.
“When rental costs are high, shouldn’t we be talking about supporting the budget for the housing department? And when electricity rates are high, shouldn’t we be hearing more about mobilizing everything that we possibly can to make power from Mindanao available for Luzon?” she asked.
On the other hand, Hontiveros also recognized that the external pressures that have been driving up prices may not abate any time soon and may recur. Therefore, incomes must grow faster than this recurring and persistent price increase. This implies that the use of higher interest rates alone to tame inflation should be resisted by economic managers as it can just stifle economic growth. Only in this way can Filipino families rebuild their financial buffers.
“Ang gusto natin ay magkaroon ng new and better normal. Kasama rito ang re-generation ng mga trabaho na nawala at pagtugon sa underemployment. We acknowledge that this will take a little time that’s why it is important to take actions early and with a sense of urgency para makahabol ang ating mga kababayan sa bilis ng pagtaas ng bilihin,” Hontiveros stated.
“Yes, the economy has to grow fast enough so incomes can get ahead of inflation. Pero kailangan hindi lang ang mayaman ang may ganansya sa pagtaas ng GDP. Kailangang may pagkakapantay-pantay para mas marami ang makinabang,” she concluded.